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Guide to Going Paperless for Educators

Teach­ers and other edu­ca­tors are con­stantly required to work with an enor­mous amount of paper, files, notes, and dig­i­tal media. They’re also tasked with man­ag­ing an abun­dance of data for their stu­dents. Orga­niz­ing this infor­ma­tion can become more and more chal­leng­ing and unwieldy. A solu­tion for this prob­lem is going paper­less. This solu­tion reduces the cost of paper pro­duc­tion, reduces the neg­a­tive impact of paper use to the envi­ron­ment, and it also increases the effi­ciency of educators.

When talk­ing to teach­ers, it’s inter­est­ing to under­stand how they orga­nize their data. It ranges from paper fil­ing sys­tems to full-blown dig­i­tal solu­tions. But nearly all edu­ca­tors agree that they’re look­ing for the best solu­tion to help them get orga­nized and stay that way. This post is intended to give teach­ers, tutors, home­school par­ents, and other edu­ca­tors tips and tricks for get­ting their infor­ma­tion orga­nized and eas­ily accessible.

Cloud_ComputingTeach­ers and other edu­ca­tors typ­i­cally look for solu­tions to man­age the fol­low­ing types of items:

  • Assign­ments, text­books (ebooks), and les­son plans
  • Stu­dent pro­files or portfolios
  • Progress reports and notes
  • Meet­ing notes from con­fer­ences and staff meetings
  • Atten­dance
  • State-required doc­u­ments, par­tic­u­larly for homeschooling

Tools that edu­ca­tors can use to get this infor­ma­tion in a dig­i­tal for­mat and orga­nized into a cen­tral loca­tion include Drop­box, Google Drive/Docs, Ever­note, and Life­Topix. Keep read­ing to learn how to lever­age the power of these tools.

Stor­ing Assign­ments, Text­books, Les­son Plans, and Other Files

Ever­note, Drop­box, and Google Drive/Docs are all great tools for stor­ing and access­ing doc­u­ments in many types of for­mats. All of these tools can store doc­u­ments, pho­tos, and other files “in the cloud” and allow access from a per­sonal com­puter or mobile device. When data is stored in the cloud, it means that it’s man­aged and backed up remotely and made avail­able over the Inter­net, instead of locally on a com­puter. The advan­tage of stor­ing files in the cloud is there’s no wor­ries about hard drive crashes, com­puter theft, or migrat­ing data to new com­put­ers. How­ever, these tools are not exactly the same, and this post will help you under­stand what makes each one appro­pri­ate for dif­fer­ent types of uses.


Drop­box is really handy soft­ware for stor­ing and retriev­ing large files such as text­books. Files can be pri­vate or shared with invited users. Drop­box is free up to a des­ig­nated amount of stor­age, and pro­vides soft­ware for per­sonal com­put­ers and mobile devices. The file struc­ture works seam­lessly with OS X and Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tems as shown in the fol­low­ing screenshot.


The Drop­box app is avail­able on the iPhone or iPad, which allows com­plete mobil­ity, such as mov­ing around the class­room while access­ing stu­dents’ files. There’s also the capa­bil­ity to con­nect an iPad to a tele­vi­sion or pro­jec­tor to share any files with a class or student.

Take note that Drop­box allows file shar­ing; how­ever, it does not allow simul­ta­ne­ous file edit­ing with oth­ers (Google Docs/Drive offers this func­tion­al­ity). With Drop­box, the servers first sync the file to their web servers, and then they’re synced to all com­put­ers that are con­nected via shared folders.


Ever­note is con­sid­ered best-in-class for note tak­ing, but it pro­vides more than just cre­ation of online notes, which makes it suit­able for a vari­ety of sce­nar­ios. Think of Ever­note as a dig­i­tal fil­ing sys­tem. Edu­ca­tors and stu­dents are always cre­at­ing con­tent — whether it’s tests, report cards, typed notes, audio files, images, or projects. Edu­ca­tors need a way to orga­nize this infor­ma­tion and to eas­ily share it. Ever­note allows note cre­ation, and it also sup­ports almost any type of file imag­in­able. It also includes advanced search­ing and tag­ging so it’s easy to quickly find files and notes.

Ever­note pro­vides great infor­ma­tion about how it can be used for schools at Ever­note for Schools. It works with a vari­ety of com­put­ers and mobile devices — there’s a free web appli­ca­tion, desk­top client, and mobile app so edu­ca­tors can use it any­where. The basic ser­vice is free, and there’s options to upgrade to the Ever­note Pre­mium For Schools version.

One typ­i­cal sce­nario for the class­room would be to cre­ate an Ever­note login for each stu­dent so each stu­dent would have access to their home­work and projects. All their projects and home­work would be included within these fold­ers. An Evernote-compliant scan­ner for the class­room allows the stu­dents to store every­thing dig­i­tally. Imag­ine how this sce­nario would sim­plify parent/teacher con­fer­ences. For exam­ple, all the stu­dents’ work could be included within the student’s pro­file — and shared in real time with the stu­dents and their par­ents via com­put­ers or mobile devices.

Google Docs/Drive

Like Drop­box and Ever­note, Google Drive includes free stor­age in the cloud. What’s dif­fer­ent about Google Drive is it becomes the cen­tral place for man­ag­ing Google Docs. Google Docs is free web-based soft­ware for cre­at­ing and updat­ing spread­sheets, doc­u­ments, pre­sen­ta­tions, and more. And with Google Docs, more than one stu­dent can edit files simul­ta­ne­ously, which makes col­lab­o­rat­ing on projects easy. The basic ser­vice is free, and there’s an upgrade to Google Apps for Edu­ca­tion.

Google Docs/Drive is an excel­lent tool for both edu­ca­tors and stu­dents. Edu­ca­tors can keep track of atten­dance via spread­sheets; cre­ate seat­ing charts via pre­sen­ta­tion or draw­ing tools; build pre­sen­ta­tions for stu­dents, par­ents, and fac­ulty; or cre­ate home­work assign­ments that can be accessed at home or in class —  the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Stu­dents can col­lab­o­rate eas­ily on projects and always have access to their assign­ment lists and home­work — which increases vis­i­bil­ity for par­ents. And as iPads and other mobile devices become main­stream in the class­room, it’s impor­tant to note that Google Drive is avail­able through the Apple App Store for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch.

Bring­ing It All Together with LifeTopix

An increas­ing num­ber of schools have started pilot pro­grams using the iPad, and they’re see­ing great poten­tial. As iPads and other tablets become more pop­u­lar in schools, apps that bring all this infor­ma­tion together will be of utmost impor­tance.  There’s no need to wait — edu­ca­tors have options now for orga­niz­ing all this infor­ma­tion into one place via their mobile devices. Imag­ine show­ing up for school with­out a back­pack, lap­top bag, heavy books, and piles of papers. With the right tools, edu­ca­tors and stu­dents can lighten their load significantly.

From what we’ve seen over the last few years, edu­ca­tors are using a vari­ety of tools for per­sonal and col­lab­o­ra­tive notes, doc­u­ments, and files. We’ve embraced the con­cept of get­ting more value from notes, files, and doc­u­ments by allow­ing these items to be used in con­text within Life­Topix. Hence, Life­Topix was devel­oped to be com­pat­i­ble with Ever­note, Drop­box, and Google Drive/Docs. It’s an extremely flex­i­ble app via its 12 con­nected top­ics, which allows edu­ca­tors to man­age all parts of their lives — their own way.

I’ll show you a few sce­nar­ios of how edu­ca­tors would use Life­Topix to orga­nize their education-related data for the class­room. The fol­low­ing screen­shots show how to cre­ate a Life­Topix project (which orga­nizes the class­room data), and then cre­ate stu­dent pro­files asso­ci­ated with each class through LifeTopix.

In the Life­Topix Tasks + Projects topic, projects con­tain all of the data asso­ci­ated with a class as shown in the fol­low­ing screen­shot. There’s the abil­ity to include a descrip­tion of the class, start and end dates, tasks, check­lists, appoint­ments, reminders, book­marks, files, audio, pho­tos, videos, notes, expenses, ser­vices, and shop­ping items.

Education Project

In the Life­Topix Notes + Files topic, there’s the capa­bil­ity to cre­ate an entry for each stu­dent as shown below. These notes are asso­ci­ated with the Project above.

Students in LifeTopix

Once an entry for each stu­dent is cre­ated, the asso­ci­ated tasks, check­lists, appoint­ments, reminders, book­marks, and files (both local and online from Drop­box, Ever­note, and Google Drive/Docs) can be added. This data can be kept pri­vate or shared within one tap via email with par­ents and stu­dents. The fol­low­ing screen­shot shows an exam­ple of a stu­dent profile.

LifeTopix Student Profile

Imag­ine the types of items that can be asso­ci­ated with the stu­dents’ pro­file. It’s pos­si­ble to set up con­fer­ences and view them on a cal­en­dar; attach a photo of the stu­dent; access online home­work fold­ers; update atten­dance spread­sheets in Google Docs; set reminders spe­cific to stu­dents; and any­thing else that’s impor­tant for students.

And for stu­dents, it’s impor­tant to note that the Life­Topix Edu­ca­tion topic allows stu­dents to track assign­ments and related doc­u­ments and resources for school, work, or per­sonal growth sub­ject areas. And it’s inte­grated with other top­ics from Life­Topix so stu­dents can, for exam­ple, directly access local and online learn­ing resources that are defined in Life­Topix Info + Docs right from within the Life­Topix Edu­ca­tion topic. To learn more about Life­Topix for stu­dents, refer to 7 Tips to Get Orga­nized for Back to School.

We hope this helps you learn how hard­ware and soft­ware can help you make the move to a paper­less class­room. Please com­ment with any ques­tions or ideas of how you’ve gone paperless.

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One Comment

  1. Betty
    Dec 03, 2012

    Great arti­cle! Please keep them com­ing! These ideas really help me to use this app as my main GTD system.

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